Irishman Kevin O’Brien joined Nottinghamshire in the second half of the 2009 season, specifically to play in One-Day matches.
Before joining Notts, O’Brien had already played a central role in the development and growth of Irish cricket on the international stage and he would continue to do so for many more years. He played in Ireland’s inaugural One Day International against England in 2006 and then in the 2007 Cricket World Cup, where Ireland recorded their first victory over a major cricketing nation when they beat Pakistan. O’Brien played in all five of Ireland’s matches at the 2009 T20 World Cup, including three staged at Trent Bridge.
Nottinghamshire had witnessed O’Brien’s skills at first hand during 2008 in English cricket’s 50-over Friends Provident Trophy, which featured the Ireland side for several seasons. Opening the bowling, he took 4-31 in the match in Dublin and followed this with a hard-hitting 93 not out which almost took Ireland to victory in the return fixture at Trent Bridge.
O’Brien joined Nottinghamshire at the end of May 2009, following Ireland’s exit from that season’s Friends Provident Trophy and around his commitments in the T20 World Cup. He made his debut for Notts in a T20 match against Durham in late May and played in five matches in that year’s competition, scoring 31 runs in three innings and taking two wickets. He also featured in all eight NatWest Pro40 matches and scored 79 runs and claimed one wicket.
Primarily seen as a white ball cricketer during his time with Nottinghamshire, O’Brien played in a single First-Class match against Oxford UCCE in The Parks in June. He recorded scores of 13 and 5 and also took a wicket in each innings. He was one of four players who made their First-Class debuts for Nottinghamshire in this match, alongside Jason Brown, Andy Carter and Akhil Patel.
Kevin O’Brien later played T20 cricket for Gloucestershire, Leicestershire, Somerset and Surrey but it was his performances for his national side that caught the eye. In 2011 he played his most memorable innings when he hit a century to set up a three-wicket win for Ireland over England in a Cricket World Cup tie in Bangalore. His 113 was scored off just 50 balls – the fastest in World Cup history until beaten twice in the 2023 tournament, firstly by Aidan Markham of New Zealand and then by Glenn Maxwell of Australia.
O’Brien continued to be a fixture in Ireland’s side in One-Day and T20 Internationals and would also feature in Test cricket when Ireland were granted full Test status in 2017. He played in Ireland’s first Test against Pakistan at Malahide, hitting 40 in the first innings and following it with 118 in the second. He also featured in Ireland’s first Test against England at Lord’s in July 2019.
He was at the crease in August 2020 when Ireland scored another famous ODI win over England, this time chasing down 329 (one more than they had needed in 2011) and again hit the winning runs, though the batting plaudits went to Irish skipper Andrew Balbirnie and opener Paul Storling, who each hit hundreds.
Kevin Joseph O’Brien was born in Dublin on 4 March 1984 into a sporting family. His father Brendan ‘Ginger’ O’Brien played cricket for Ireland in the 1960s and 70s. His older brother Niall was a regular alongside Kevin in the Ireland side and their sister Ciara was a hockey international for Ireland, amassing more than 100 caps for her country.
While Kevin O’Brien’s stint with Nottinghamshire in the early part of his career produced modest results, he was undoubtedly one the stars of the rise of the Ireland side on the international stage – and that fastest World Cup hundred will be talked about for years, as will the 2020 win at the Ageas Bowl.
Nottinghamshire First-Class Number: 605